After media reports last week of a simple OC Transpo fare dispute escalating and landing a rider in provincial offences court, it can be easy to forget how smoothly our buses run most of the time, thanks in no small part to simple courtesy.

 

Consideration can be hard to come by. In Toronto, the TTC last year stopped trying to persuade riders to observe basic etiquette, yielding priority seating to those in need for example, and started legislating good behaviour, cracking down with fines of $195 and $345, plus victim surcharges.

 

In famously rude New York, artist Jason Shelowitz has taken extraordinary measures to teach fellow riders some manners, designing his own posters railing against subway preachers, messy eaters and other public transit boors, and mounting them on MTC property.

 

Sample admonishment: “Your music may be amazingly enjoyable to you, but remember to keep the volume at a level that only you can hear. Other passengers do not want to hear your favourite songs (The same goes for phones and portable gaming devices). Also, please don’t sing/rap along with it. Please.”

 

Fed-up New York transit riders can also take photos of each other’s transgressions, from taking up extra seats to public nudity, and submitting them to the bluntly-named subwaydouchery.com, a website created by stand-up comedian Tom Sibley.


Taking a considerably more measured tone towards instructing the public is our homegrown OC Transpo Etiquette, a series of YouTube videos by a self-described team of “three ordinary teenagers that have nothing better to do.”


The clips, the longest of which is 22 seconds, get straight to the point on several points of basic courtesy: Move back and make room; watch the volume of your conversation; don’t take up an extra seat with your backpack.


It’s all pretty elementary stuff, but it’s not hard to spot violations on most any bus route. The video makers have no connection to OC Transpo, but most drivers wouldn’t find much to dispute in their productions.


Another hint: Warm and fuzzy it isn’t, but as a general rule, your fellow passengers mostly just want to be left alone. Public transit is full of the public, and much like on an elevator, bus passengers spend much of the trip ignoring each other.


Still, the best co-riders keep an eye out for an opportunity to help get a stroller onboard or point out when someone’s about to disembark without their umbrella. These small acts of civility are also far from uncommon on OC Transpo buses. They happen every day and they can make all the difference.


– Steve Collins lives, writes and walks in Ottawa; ottawaletters@metronews.ca